After a convincing 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday evening, the Washington Capitals clinched the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and a first round date with the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins. The Capitals and Bruins are set to face off on Thursday for Game 1 of the best-of-7 game series in Boston.
The Capitals went 3-1-0 against the Bruins this season, including a wild 3-2 shootout victory over the Bruins in their final visit on March 29. Shootouts won’t be needed in this series though, seeing as overtime is continuous until one team scores a goal.
While the Capitals saw victory in three of their four games against the Bruins this season, the players are not thinking of this as a cake walk at all. Dennis Wideman, who is a former Bruins defenseman knows that the Bruins are completely different team in the postseason. Troy Brouwer believes the success that the Capitals had against the team will help, however he believes the way the Capitals have been playing of late will help more. The Capitals have won four of their last five, giving them a strong surge into the playoffs.
The strongest of the Capitals has been Alex Ovechkin of late, with a strong resurgence to see himself as a top 3 player in the NHL. Ovechkin finished the season in fifth for goals with 38. As the captain he will have to step up yet again in the postseason. Jason Chimera has also had a great season, reaching the 20 goal plateau for the first time in his career. Alexander Semin, while highly criticized all season, was by far the most consistent forward on the team, putting up 54 points (21 G, 33 A). Finally, with the return of Nicklas Backstrom to the lineup, the highly potent offense is back on track.
It appears Braden Holtby will manning the net due to injuries suffered by Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth in the past three weeks of the season. This will be Holtby’s first playoff experience and he will have his work cut out for him.
If the Capitals will make it out of the first round they will need Holtby to play lights out, game-in and game-out, as well as the noted superstar trio of Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom to step up and play to their fullest potential. If one player were to have a breakout series, I believe it would have to be Marcus Johansson.
On the Bruins side of things, they have eight players with 15 or more goals, being led by Tyler Seguin with 29. However, they have no players that reached 70 points on the season. They also have favorites for the Norris Trophy in Zdeno Chara and Selke Trophy in Patrice Bergeron. Not to mention last year’s Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas in net.
The Capitals definitely has their work cut out for them in this series, and while they have had quite an up-down season, it all starts over again. That’s the best thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no matter how rough a season was, once they begin it’s anyone’s Cup.
Stay tuned for all of your Capitals Playoff needs right here.
Follow Matthew on twitter @geiser19.